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Awareness Is the Aim of This Classic

Morehouse-Alcorn State matchup at the Coliseum is a chance for historically black schools to gain exposure with local talent.

September 29, 2006|Jerry Crowe | Times Staff Writer

Hopeful that a football game can generate interest among Southern Californians in the nation's historically black colleges and universities, most of which are in the South, Morehouse College of Atlanta and Alcorn State of Lorman, Miss., will play Saturday at the Coliseum.

Promoters have dubbed it the Silver Dollar Classic, but classic might be stretching it. On the surface, at least, it's nothing more than a nonconference matchup of struggling lower-level teams that usually travel by bus.

Alcorn State, alma mater of author Alex Haley, actor Michael Clarke Duncan and NFL quarterback Steve McNair, has put its streak of five consecutive winning seasons in jeopardy by losing its first three games.

Morehouse, dubbed "the black Harvard" and boasting an alumni list that includes Martin Luther King Jr., actor Samuel L. Jackson, filmmaker Spike Lee and Olympic gold medalist Edwin Moses, is 2-3 as it attempts to end a run of four consecutive losing seasons.

But the game and events surrounding it, among them a battle of the bands tonight in the Sports Arena featuring Morehouse's House of Funk Marching Band and Alcorn State's Sounds of Dyn-O-Mite Marching Band, are "as much about education and awareness" as they are entertainment, promoter John Fleming said.

"We want to make sure that the youth in this part of the country understand that these schools exist," Fleming added. "It's a great introduction to the schools and a reminder of the tremendous job they've done for over 100 years in terms of providing higher education and learning for minorities, in particular."

The football teams' rosters include only a few players from Southland high schools, among them Morehouse freshman running back Sinclair Ridley-Thomas, son of Assemblyman Mark Ridley-Thomas of Los Angeles.

"Primarily, it's a recruiting tool," Morehouse spokesman Yusuf Davis said of Saturday's game, "and an opportunity for our alumni on the West Coast to see us play. Several alumni groups have scheduled meetings around the weekend."

For the players, Davis said, it might be the trip of a lifetime.

"Some have never flown and others have never been out of Georgia," he said, "so it's a good opportunity for them to get a little exposure, get a little travel, broaden their horizons a little bit."

The first Silver Dollar Classic, a 42-14 Grambling victory over Tennessee State in 2002, drew a crowd of 22,537 to Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas.

Grambling and Alcorn State were scheduled to play at Carson's Home Depot Center in September 2004 before promoters canceled the game.

jerome.crowe@latimes.com

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